Idris Khattak
Idris Khattak Image Credit: Twitter

Idris Khattak, a Pakistani human rights activist and independent researcher, went missing last year, and it is feared that he has been subjected to an enforced disappearance. Now, twitterati are asking for answers and justice from the government.

In November 2019, Pakistani-based DawnNewsTV reported that in a complaint filed in Anbar police station, Khattak’s driver, identified as Shahsawar said that he was driving Khattak to Swabi city when about four unidentified men stopped the activist's car at Swabi Motorway Interchange and kidnapped him.

At the time, in a web report, Dawn News reported that officials did confirm that Khattak was missing but said an FIR (First Information Report) will be lodged after an initial investigation.

The incident occurred on November 13. He has not been seen since.

Soon after, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), @HRCP87, tweeted about the issue and demanded Khattak's "immediate recovery", saying that he had "remained associated with progressive politics since his student days".

"HRCP condemns arbitrary detentions and urges the Pakistani state to fulfill its constitutional obligations towards its citizens," the tweet read.

Some fear that Khattak might have been a victim of a state-related disappearance.

Amnesty International, human rights organisation, posted an appeal on their website stating: “No one has seen him since the evening of 13 November when he was taken by men in plain clothes on a motorway between Islamabad and Peshawar. His whereabouts and fate remain unknown to his family. Amnesty International fears that Khattak could be at risk of torture, ill-treatment or worse – as suffered by other victims of enforced disappearance in Pakistan. Khattak is also a patient of diabetes and needs daily medication.”

#WhereIsIdrisKhattak trends

As five months have passed after his mysterious disappearance, Twitter users started the trend #WhereIsIdrisKhattak, asking Pakistani authorities to look into the issue and serve justice.

Khattak’s daughter, Talia Khattak, @taliakhattak, tweeted about the issue, stating that the family still has no information on his location: “Almost 6 months since I last spoke to my father. We've been told nothing of his whereabouts or the reason why he was taken. We feel hopeless to when he will return back to us. We miss him every single day. #WhereIsidriskhattak”

Pakistani media outlets reported that in a press release by HRCP, it was said that Khattak's family believes he had been "forcibly disappeared" by security forces. If Khattak had been kidnapped by militant or criminal elements, they would have asked for a ransom by now, his family reportedly said.

Tweep @kAfghaan posted: “A Pashtun human rights activist #IdrisKhattak is abducted 6 months back from swabi interchange by unknown gunmen but till today his family has no clue of where he is and why he is been abducted

We demand state agencies to recover him immediately and release him. #WhereIsIdrisKhattak”

Many believe that it is “highly unconstitutional” if there is any state involvement in his abduction.

Pakistani politician, Afrasiab Khattak, @a_siab, posted: “The abductors of Idris Khattak have become the judge, the jury and the prison lords for him. Why isn’t he produced in a court of law if he is accused of any wrongdoing? He is an honourable citizen and deserves the rights enshrined in the Constitution. #WhereIsIdrisKhattak”

Twitter user @q_nida posted: “Silence on violence is also a crime raise your voice for safe recovery of Idris Khattak. He is the voice of missing persons. In our country, there have always been attempts to suppress voices of truth. Forced disappearances are worst violation of human rights. #WhereIsIdrisKhattak”

Many chose to directly tweet at Shireen Mazari, Pakistan’s current Federal Minister for Human Rights, asking her to take action.

If Khattak has been arrested by security forces as an enforced disappearance, he joins 2,122 other unresolved cases of enforced disappearances that are still pending against the Pakistani state. The figure has been released by the government's own Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, according to a report by Pakistani newspaper The Nation.